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FIVE percent of older Irish people require long-term nursing home care.
This small group comprises older people of advanced age with high levels of disability and frailty.
The news that the 2011 funding for the Fair Deal Nursing Home Scheme has run out in the first half of the year is shocking since the most direct effects will be felt by highly vulnerable people at the point of transition from home or acute hospital to nursing home care. In the short-term, Fair Deal co-funding must be restored to spare this minority of older people and their families any further distress or uncertainty.
Taking a longer view, issues related to the provision and financing of nursing home care in Ireland have been contentious since the Health Act 1970 required the State to provide nursing home care for those who need it. The failures to meet this obligation in the past have been documented in numerous reports, including those of the Ombudsman (2001, 2010). Critically, the view that obligations under the 1970 Act have been superseded by the Fair Deal legislation is not shared by all stakeholders.
At the heart of the matter is the question of the right to care for vulnerable citizens with complex needs.
Ireland has ratified the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which recognises the right to health defined in association with availability, access to, acceptability and quality of health facilities, goods and services. The problem is that the right to health and personal social services is not defined in Irish legislation.
This point has been highlighted by the Irish Human Rights Commission in their submission to the UN Periodic Review of Ireland’s human rights record which is in progress this year.
Ultimately, a planned, strategic approach to the provision and financing of nursing home care is needed.
The Programme for Government promises a review of the Fair Deal system of financing nursing home care with a view to developing a secure system of financing for community and long-term care for older people. In Older & Bolder’s view, this review should commence immediately.
Director, Older & Bolder
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